The Red Antler Team Discusses Design and Branding Trends of Today

We do a lot of Q&As on The Dieline, but none are quite like this. This special interview is conducted between two of the team members at Red Antler, Simon Endres, Co-Founder and Head of Design and Scott Chapps, Head of Industrial Design. They pick each other’s brains about the creative process, the design experience for consumers, what’s next in branding and packaging, and more.

Simon: How do you think about being brave, or being comfortable taking big risks in your creative process?

Scott: Being brave is deeply tied to collaboration, and having the ability to convince your audience by showing them a range of thinking that balances calculated and emotional judgments. You have to demonstrate both the potential implications and the payoff with introducing a novel idea and how it will affect the discourse with consumers. All strategic ideas have a trajectory so risk can be mapped in relation to time and investment, and it may not be prudent to introduce the riskiest idea first but instead ladder up to it—this approach should be articulated in the design strategy phase. You have to make sure everyone is comfortable with being slightly uncomfortable, which is what makes the whole idea exciting in the first place. Being brave should be holistic to include the full support system from brand, digital, content and marketing all working collectively to support the idea and bring it to life.


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Simon: What led you to running an industrial design team?

Scott: Over the last 20 plus years I’ve either been a part of or have established different types of industrial design teams. While the discipline has an umbrella title there are many wonderful thinkers, technicians and craftsman in the field of Industrial design, and I get to learn so much from the individuals I work with. I also get to impart my experience, which is focused on helping teams to navigate situations, pushing hard on strategy and practicing the art of staying as objective as possible about the work.  

Simon: What are 3 positive takeaways you have from certain projects that you still hold onto?

Scott:

  1. Keep it simple by focusing on a single-minded idea (or gesture) that cuts away anything extraneous or distracting.
  2. Create a “moment,” in the form of a detail, a color or a combination of things that sticks with people whether it’s big or small. The most unexpected or thoughtful details almost certainly stick and become ownable.
  3. It’s important to understand that you can’t be everything to everyone, therefore take a stance and express it with conviction, which is closely tied to the risk element.

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Simon: As brands become more experiential (pop-ups, the importance of the unboxing experience), how does that affect what you think about? 

Scott: As brands venture more into physical experiences, it shows how they have the potential to affect more of the senses and to be more immersive. They take us to different places or destinations by capturing the imagination, or simply reaffirming a familiarity. We use the idea of connecting with the senses as part of our design tool kit when thinking about a holistic brand experience. When brands manifest in a physical experience they almost certainly augment our perception of the brand and its values.

Simon: As a designer, I see a shift and re-definition of what premium and luxury mean. Do you see a similar shift in packaging, and if so, how does it manifest itself?

Scott: A premium experience doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, exclusive or luxurious in a material sense. A premium experience can be tied to how well you resonate with an individual, which is especially true when shifting time into a convenience. The old adage that time is a precious commodity is true now more than ever, and therefore it’s considered a premium for both brands and consumers. Overall, I believe that premium is connected to how well and thoughtful you do something, instead of relying on extravagance to convey the message.

Simon: How much has social media—especially Instagram—affected how you think about creating tactile experiences?

Scott: People love to share fun moments or things they’ve discovered, especially early adopters. So the desire to share something is a component to think about when creating a product experience. We look at ways to welcome users into the brand world through personal messages or by adding a thoughtful addition that goes beyond what they were expecting. If you exceed a consumer’s expectations, you’ll likely find your product making its way onto multiple social platforms.

Simon: There is a pressure in branding, design and startups in general to continuously innovate and re-invent the wheel. How do you balance that with familiarity?

Scott: Innovation is a loaded term with a wide ranging spectrum that’s traditionally linked to the idea of invention. We think of innovation as a way to change the dialogue with consumers, which by virtue is a form of invention. Having the ability to change a behavior, or an attitude in a meaningful way is innovative because it creates a shift, a means to perpetuate a new way of thinking about a product or a category. As long as the design language and communications we use do not get distorted or too esoteric, we can retain a sense of familiarity.


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Simon: How do you view sustainability and responsibility as a part of your role when developing packaging systems for brands?

Scott: As designers, we have to make our products extremely clever to compel consumers to accept a premium. If we’re working with packaging we try hard to reduce as much as we can and to use materials that are easy to separate for recycling. If it’s a durable consumer product, we’ll promote the use of materials that have a small carbon footprint, and are built for longevity, to reduce obsolescence or over consumption. 

Simon: What keeps you inspired on a day-to-day basis?

Scott: Everything from keeping up with the financial news for a broad overview on new, emerging or converging tech trends, to keeping an eye on very specific fashion labels. I follow certain Dutch and Japanese designers who are revered for experimenting with materials and structures. Their philosophies are rooted in experimentation, and essentially having a forum for being brave through design. This keen observation has inspired some of my own design philosophy.

Simon: What is the difference between packaging and industrial design, and why are you building out an industrial design team versus a packaging design team?

Scott: Packaging designers often come from the world of industrial design and find themselves focusing their skills towards packaging, which is a very complex, specialized discipline. We view packaging as a subset of our Industrial design team and our strategic focus is geared towards designing the entire physical experience across many interconnected touch points. In an ideal world we are creating the product and packaging design, and envisioning the space in which the product is introduced, such as a full retail interior, an individual display or a temporary pop up location. 

Scott: What is next for branding, where is it moving, and how does it differentiate itself from the crowd?

Simon: Right now, the power is now in consumers’ hands to pick and choose what brands that want to let into their lives. That means brands need to be built on principles that align with their consumers, be open and relatable and to prove why they deserve people’s attention.

We see the need to create richer layered systems, basically giving brands more tools in the toolkit to employ across different channels. A logo and a set of colors are not enough when you need to communicate via an Instagram post one moment, a customer service email and then tell a compelling tactile story though an unboxing experience.

Differentiation comes when companies are built on better principles with a core offering that is actually differentiated. It’s a tough ask to layer a differentiated looking brand ID on top of an idea that doesn’t have a clear point of difference. As branding and design experts, our task is to express this difference in a meaningful and surprising way. We like taking an expected category cue and turn it on its head to create something unexpected but still grounded in the category.


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Scott: How do you remain objective in a highly subjective field of work, and how do you truly delineate the two?

Simon: Clear delineation between being objective vs subjective requires discipline in how you toggle and move between the two worlds—not an easy task in the heat of any project!

Subjectivity is a powerful source of creativity where unexpected and serendipitous things can happen but that needs to be balanced with a rational, objective approach. I toggle between the macro and micro: when being objective, it’s important to zoom out for a broader view by asking whether we’re being strategic. Is what we are doing in the best interests of the business? Will this design make sense to consumers? Do we have the right visual or conceptual DNA running throughout the system so it feels like everything is connected?

On the other end, it’s beneficial to switch into a mode where you are being a little selfish and asking yourself questions like, “Do I believe in the idea? What do I want to see in the world? Does this idea excite me? Where can I take this?” This will encourage a more intimate involvement in the project and has the potential to inject unexpected personality into what you create.

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Kylie Kwong’s sung choi bao of vegetables

Some days I really love my job – case in point, the end of last week when I was invited to attend a Furi knife event hosted by the super-talented and down-to-earth Kylie Kwong. I have always been a massive fan of hers, especially since I saw her a few years ago, cooking at a local Sydney food market – she mans the stand there every weekend with her team, making sure she stays connected to her community, advocating for the use of the best and freshest local ingredients. That is pretty bloody cool. Any way she is also an ambassador for Furi knives which she explained are ergonomically designed to fit beautifully in your hand, and all made from one piece of steel – so no seams or joins to erode. Anyhoo – we were treated to a demo by Kylie then split into teams to recreate the dish she had just made, putting our knife skills (in my case basically entry-level) to the test using the beautiful knives provided. We made the vegetable sung choi bao of vegetables, with much chat and laughter, after which Kylie judged our efforts. The conclusion was a draw, but our team did manage to get a special mention for our outrageous iceberg lettuce tower, so we’ll just savour that! So on days when I am up and cooking at 7am and shooting in my trackies and home-knitted jumper in my little studio all day, I will remember the other days when I manage to get out of the quarry (I live in an old quarry – long story) and feel super-lucky indeed.
Aaaand in book news – bloody hell – I did two trips in my little mini to pick up some of the first boxes of books yesterday, so that I can start sending advanced copies out to the lucky competition winners from Facebook and Instagram (well done Kirsty and Gillian!) and in preparation for a flood (haha) of sales. It was insane seeing those piles of cartons in the warehouse, all ready to send out around to the retailers. So far I am happy to say the books will be available in Whitcoulls, selected Paper Plus stores, Millys, Moore Wilsons and lots of other retailers around the country – and here on the website too 🙂 If you’re keen to buy a book – by all means go into your local book seller/homewares/general little cool shop and ask them if they’ve ordered it – and if not they can get in touch with me and I’ll point them in the right direction!
Finally, before I get on with work (classic weekend…) it was so bloody fantastic having Hoob here last week! We had so much fun going to a fashion week show, making vege curry and watching the first leaders debate, and just generally hanging out…such a treat. And now he is already back in Welly dammit, but will be returning in a few weeks (oh my God) for the actual book launch. Henry and Will will also be heading over so it will be a wonderful full house – and I will be the happiest of pigs in mud 🙂 Right, gah, stuff to do – this was delicious, quick, easy and healthy…highly recommended. Kylie’s recipe is detailed below.

1 small ice berg lettuce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp malt vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 large thumb ginger, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 small red onion, finely sliced
80grams green beans, trimmed and finely sliced
2 sticks celery, trimmed and finely sliced
2 tbs shao hsing wine or dry sherry
1 Chinese cabbage leaf, finely shredded
1 small carrot, cut into fine julienne strips
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/2 bunch garlic chives, cut into 5cm lengths
sliced large red chilli to serve, optional
Cut out and discard the core of the lettuce, then soak the entire lettuce in cold water for 1 hour (this will make it easier to pull apart the leaves. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Combine soy sauce, vinegar sugar and sesame oil in a small bowl and set aside. Heat peanut oil in a hot wok until the surface seems to shimmer slightly. Add ginger, garlic, onion and mushroom and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add beans and celery and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add wine or sherry and cook for 30 seconds. Add soy sauce mixture and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Add cabbage, carrot, bean sprouts and garlic chives and stir to combine. Remove from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetable mixture from wok, draining well so that any juices are left in the wok. Serve in a bowl set on a large platter accompanied with lettuce-leaf cups. To eat, simple spoon vegetable mixture into lettuce cups, roll up to enclose and eat with your fingers. Serve with sliced chilli, if you like.

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The Design For This Vodka Was Inspired By Childhood Shadow Puppets

Left and Right Design has created the packaging for Fire Fang Vodka. The design takes inspiration from shadow puppets while also reinforcing the bold notion of the product.

“Vodka’s taste is hot, such as flames like a tiger. It is fighting the nation of Russia’s traditional drink, brave like a wolf. It also is fast and flexible with a variety of fruit wine and the preparation of pre-tune wine, like a jaguar. These designs with tigers, wolves, and leopards, respectively express the three characteristics of the Volga: violent, brave and flexible.”

“Shadows are traditional Chinese children’s games. With only a light, you can change through the gestures to create a variety of animal images.

The FIRE FANG vodka bottle changes in the front of the bottle and the back of the three animal graphics associated with the formation of the packaging.

Shadow games are interesting and romantic, there are a lot of childhood memories for the consumers. The hand shadow of the creative application can better narrow the emotional distance between the consumer and the product, and quickly produce a good impression on the brand’s first impact.”


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Designed By: Left and Right Design

Location: Shenzhen, China

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Rosé All Day With This Pretty Take on the 40 Ounce

Forty Ounce Wines has come out with a new line of wines that are perfect for enjoying in the summer season. Their collection so far features a 40 ounce version of their Rosé and their Muscadet. The design is elegant and sophisticated, featuring metallic elements that bring a sense of class to the 40 ounce.

“You’re probably used to dropping around $15 to $20 for a traditional bottle of rosé, right? Those bottles only hold 750 mL or about 25 ounces of wine. Since a forty holds nearly twice that amount, they end up being quite a deal—especially since we found one store in New York selling them for just $16.

This dry, light-bodied rosé is nothing to scoff at, either. Forty Ounce Wines—which also makes a muscadet—is produced in the Loire Valley by French winemaker Julien Braud, so you know it’s legit.

So far these rosé forties are for sale in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California, and Colorado. But you’ll have to act quick to find them. Because of a difficult season in the Loire Valley, the company only produced 1,200 cases from the 2016 vintage so they ‘probably won’t last long,’ says creator Patrick Cappiello.”


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Product: Forty Ounce Wines

Content via: delish

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Check Out This Gorgeous Conceptual Gin that Celebrates South African Nature

Fynbos is a gorgeous gin concept created by The Motel. The design features beautiful lettering and intricately illustrated images of botanics and animals which pay tribute to the unique flora and fauna found only in South Africa.

“Fynbos is a world of finely branched plants exquisitely adapted to flourish in poor soils and wildly varying rainfall. South African fynbos largely makes up the tiniest floral kingdom in the world. The Cape Floral Kingdom of 2,285 species of flowers in an area a third the size of London. It has three times more plant species per square kilometer than those fabulously lush rainforests. I decided to create a gin packaging design dedicated to these incredible plants found only in the Cape. The area also known as the Cape of Storms with its breathtakingly yet turbulent beauty, of ocean, beaches and table mountain, the inspiration behind Cape Fynbos Gin. A culmination of my love for South African nature, art and design.”


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Studio: The Motel

Designed By: Johnny Kotze

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

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